Reyn Sugai’s pregame routine has always been elaborate.
His socks must go on left to right, then he puts on his pants, his jersey and his hat.
Since he was four years old, the former Temple baseball player has kept this routine through many different uniforms, but his superstition had never faced a blue jersey until this summer.
Now at the University of Northern Colorado, Sugai did everything the same way he had always done it – from the socks to the hat, exactly the same. But somehow, when donning his new school’s apparel, everything felt wrong.
“I’ve never worn blue in my life,” Sugai said. “Putting on a different lettering and logo was tough. I’m still going through it, I really don’t feel as much pride as I did in a Temple uniform.”
Since Temple’s athletic cuts were announced on Dec. 6, 2013, Sugai has seen teammates transfer, request for redshirt years and abandon the program he was so proud to be a part of.
For Sugai, the team bonding after the cuts is actually what he misses about Temple baseball.
“I definitely miss the brotherhood,” Sugai said. “[The program] turned into a real family after we got cut. People left and things happened. People were all looking out for themselves. The people who stayed developed an immediate bond. We were going to stick together no matter what and go out with a bang. I had never been a part of a team that was motivated by one goal or one situation like that before.”
Sugai, who started his collegiate career at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, still remembers the day he committed to Temple.
“I was between some other programs and it really came down to two schools,” Sugai said. “I was having such a hard time because the other school offered me a lot of money and it was a really good baseball program. But I also knew that Temple had both the things I wanted, they had baseball and they had good schooling.”
Sugai’s decision came the next day, on a treadmill.
“I woke up and went to my physical education class,” Sugai said. “The first thing I saw on the TV … was a Temple University student. As soon as that happened, I shut off the treadmill and turned off the TV and called my parents.”w
Despite the fiscal benefits of going elsewhere, Sugai said he chose Temple for its journalism program, and nearly stayed because of it.
Sugai said he considered giving up his baseball career in order to finish his degree at Temple, but ultimately chose to continue his baseball career, sacrificing his chance to remain part of the academic program he cherished.
“Temple was everything I was looking for,” Sugai said. “[Temple was] definitely perfect. They covered both things. They played in a really good conference and the schooling was second to none. Being in a big city, there was a lot of exposure and media action going on. It was probably one of the better journalism schools in the country, I’d say.”
Sugai, now training for the spring with his new team, has had a hard time adjusting to yet another change of scenery.
“Things are a lot different here,” the middle-infielder said. “I’m still not really adjusted or attached yet. I’m not fully invested like I was at Temple yet, so it’s a lot different.”
Sugai joins a Northern Colorado baseball team with four Hawaii natives, as well as his coach, a native of Honolulu.
In approaching his new transfer player, Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki made sure to reassure Sugai that his struggles to find a safe haven in his college career was not a result of anything he had done wrong.
“I told him way back in November, ‘Hey Reyn, listen man, I know it’s been hard but it’s not your fault,’” Northern Colorado coach Carl Iwasaki said.
Through the cuts, Sugai still regrets the missed opportunity of finishing his journalism degree at Temple, as well as the student body.
“I wanted to leave college with a Temple degree,” Sugai said. “[I miss] the opportunity and the people you meet on a daily basis the campus was unreal.”
“[I miss] being around your peers and instructors that have been through the programs and been in the same situations that you want to be in as a student. I really cherished those kind of experiences and I learned a lot,” he added.
EJ Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @ejsmitty17